Kara Swisher at AllThingsD is reporting that embattled Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is going to step down for “personal reasons.” Swisher has one or more “moles” inside the company and consistently gets inside information — which generally turns out to be correct.
Thompson’s “personal reasons,” as we all know, are: misrepresenting that he had a computer science degree. Yahoo EVP Ross Levinsohn is reportedly set to become interim CEO, with the apparent hope that he could take the helm permanently.
Swisher adds that the situation is still in flux and could change. The board is apparently meeting this morning.
Shareholder and hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb aggressively pushed for Thompson’s ouster and kept pressure on the board. It’s seems relatively clear that the ethics issue was an opportunity for Loeb to push his agenda.
He stoked a public-relations crisis at Yahoo that gave him more leverage in asserting demands and extracting concessions from the board. Indeed, as part of a Yahoo “settlement” with Loeb, he is “set to get three board seats from a slate proposed by him as part of a proxy fight aimed at Yahoo,” according to AllThingsD.
When the news first broke that Thompson didn’t have the computer science degree he claimed I didn’t believe it would result in his ultimate resignation. After all, he had many years of experience as a successful tech executive in Silicon Valley. In other words, he had the desired experience; the paper was a technicality of sorts — not to minimize the ethics issue.
Yet the scandal refused to go away and had become a major PR headache for Yahoo and a distraction for employees. Yahoo announced Thompson’s appointment as CEO in early January of this year. The Yahoo director who was instrumental in Thompson’s hiring, Patti Hart, resigned last week. But that didn’t put the matter to rest or satisfy Loeb.
Yahoo has endured a remarkably tumultuous period over the past three or so years. It has seen multiple CEOs, the disruption of the Microsoft search deal, waves of layoffs and executive departures as well as multiple reorganizations and strategy shifts. What an amazing and sad spectacle.
Thompson had begun to execute on a new turnaround plan, including reducing headcount at Yahoo by 2,000 employees. Levinsohn came in under previous CEO Carol Bartz and is well regarded inside the company and in the industry. His background is very different from Thompson’s. It’s not clear whether he’ll now want to put his own stamp on the company or will proceed with Thompson’s plan.
Before coming to Yahoo, Levinsohn was president of Fox Interactive Media.
Out earlier today came the Yahoo release announcing Levinsohn’s appointment and that of Fred Amoroso as the new Chairman of the Yahoo Board.
Postscript, 11:15 pm PT by Matt McGee: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Thompson told Yahoo’s board of directors that he’s been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and that his decision to leave the Yahoo CEO post was influenced “in part” by the diagnosis.
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